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Diversity survey reveals ongoing challenges for ethnic minorities in built environment sector

The Sustainability Tool, in collaboration with the Supply Chain Sustainability School’s Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) Programme, has unveiled the outcomes of the largest-ever employee diversity survey in the UK, which has become a crucial annual fixture in the built environment sector’s progress tracking since 2016, offering a detailed record of diversity data and pinpointing areas for improvement.

The 2023 diversity survey results, covering 526,415 employees across 537 supply chains of eight major companies and two membership organisations, highlight a substantial increase in participation, with a 55 per cent surge in employees covered and a remarkable 99 per cent rise in participating companies compared to 2022. The inclusion of contributions from small and medium enterprises (SMEs) played a significant role in this expansion.

This year’s findings reveal a noteworthy surge of women in the industry, rising from 23 per cent in 2022 to 29.1 per cent in 2023. This significant increase, marking the survey’s most significant rise in seven years, is primarily attributed to first-time reporting by several Tier 1 organisations. Sectors leading this positive shift include central government, rail, and facilities management, all surpassing the industry benchmark value of 29.1 per cent.

Key takeaways from the 2023 survey include: 

  • Ethnicity: Despite constituting 52.5 per cent of industry applicants, the representation of ethnic minority groups in the workforce decreased year-on-year slightly to 13.6 per cent, trailing five per cent below the ONS UK population average.
  • Attraction and Recruitment: The application to hiring ratio was notably higher for ethnic minority groups (90:1) compared to white applicants (28.4:1), on average making it three times as challenging to secure a job this year. Depending on background, ethnic minority groups found it between 1.2 to 6.4 times harder to be hired than their white counterparts.
  • Disability: Persistent data gaps exist around disability, with 35.2 per cent of respondents’ data not being collected. The ‘prefer not to say’ option increased from 3.2 per cent to 6.5 per cent this year.
  • Sexual orientation: While disclosure is increasing, only 2.04 per cent of employees identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, below the ONS UK population average of 3.14 per cent. The survey now includes pansexual, asexual and queer categories to align with census data.

Findings from the survey were initially shared at the Supply Chain Sustainability School’s ‘Diversity Data Benchmarking Conference’ in Birmingham last month. The conference emphasised the importance of organisations contributing to the survey to enhance the transparency of the sector and improve diversity and inclusion in key areas such as gender and ethnic diversity. Along with plugging gaps in data capture around disability, pay gaps were also highlighted as areas for attention to achieve a more transparent industry view.

Cathryn Greville, Head of Fairness, Inclusion and Respect at Supply Chain Sustainability School, said: “The survey demonstrates the critical importance of quality data in addressing equity, diversity and inclusion issues across the built environment sector. Without relevant data, organisations simply cannot identify, understand and address the real issues they face in their businesses and supply chains, and they cannot track the success of any initiatives put in place to make the workplace more inclusive and successful.”

The Diversity Survey is set to reopen in March 2024, allowing anyone in the built environment to participate anonymously for free.


About Sarah OBeirne

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